Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Monkishness in the modern world

Yesterday someone challenged me about my seeming acceptance of the modern world, by which she meant that I didn’t seem as critical about certain things that she felt critical about. Her concern had a religious emphasis and I countered by saying I didn’t approve of Monkishness. In Christianity the Holy Spirit is transforming us, if we are Christian, into the image of Jesus Christ, meaning we are becoming more and more like him if we are cooperating enough, or, if the Holy Spirit is working hard enough, or a combination thereof. There is never a point where we can like Faust declare, “ah it is fair,” meaning we are there in his image and need only to hold on to the end. Whenever groups have thought they were “there,” they created something that was eventually considered a “cult” or a “heresy.” We are never “there.” There is no evidence in Scripture or in Nature than anyone ever got “there” other than the founder of our religion – and by that I mean Jesus and not Paul.

But yes there was a time when I noticed the little things, words, behavior, spite, selfishness, envy, etc., but like the poor, these human defects seem to be always with us. Even the monks hiding away from the world are subject to these defects; so their hiding gains them nothing. And as to filling ones time with hymn-singing to drown out the sound of the world, that may have a certain benefit, but it is akin to putting one’s hands over one’s ears and yelling so that one doesn’t hear something one is sure to find offensive.

In short, I am opposed to Monkishness, or I thought I was, but when I move out of the realm of religion into politics I am not so sure. In an earlier note, I wrote, I never intended this blog to be exclusively about foreign affairs. If I had, I would have given it a different title, but I used my own name reserving the right to write about whatever happened to interest me at the time. While my primary interest has been foreign affairs since 9/11, I had a goal in mind, and that goal has been reached. I believed the weight of evidence was on the side of Islamism being a serious threat to the U.S. and the rest of the West; so hoped that the Democratic administration that succeeded the Bush administration, would be willing to carry on that war. Yes, the Left is a potent force in America nowadays, but I hoped it wouldn’t be able to withstand all the governmental forces in place that demand that we behave responsibly in Iraq, Afghanistan and in support of our allies against Islamism. I have heard enough from Obama to believe he will carry on that war.

“So I feel free to turn my attention to other things. Actually, one of those “other things” is still on the subject of foreign affairs, just not affairs that involve Islamism. I have an ongoing interest in the European human condition. I am presently reading Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy, and Tony Judt’s Postwar, A History of Europe Since 1945. And as I mentioned yesterday, I feel free enough to take up some literary subjects, and have been attempting to resume Bolano’s The Savage Detectives. . . .”

I don’t feel precisely hypocritical about having written that, but I do squirm a bit. I didn’t just write about foreign affairs and diplomacy. I also mentioned the Left and Obama’s relationship to it, and I may seem to have given up opposing the left. Yes, early on in the Bush Administration I was more concerned about establishing principles strong enough so that whoever succeeded Bush would carry them on; so what I said about Obama is true. He does appear willing to carry them on. I’m not seeing anything he is proposing as an about face; so if that were my only concern then yes, I should feel free to read the other things I mentioned, but that wasn’t my only concern, what about “The Left.” With the victory of “The Left” in the last election, am I not withdrawing, a little, into my study-monastery to do the equivalent of singing hymns while the world rushes by?

In another Blog note, I wrote, is this not what intellectuals sometimes do, especially intellectuals who don’t enjoy rubbing elbows with ordinary people? There is a political upheaval; so begin a reading project or work on a book. I recall in War and Remembrance, Aaron Jastrow puts himself, his niece and her son in danger when he can’t turn away from his book project as the Nazis advance. The priest isn’t in that sort of danger, and neither am I after Obama’s victory, but when something of an unpleasant political nature occurs, we take the opportunity to engage in literary projects.” I didn’t do any soul searching at that point, but perhaps some soul searching is called for. While I have not withdrawn from the world in a religious sense, perhaps I have in a political sense.

However, I can’t search my soul too long on this issue because I don’t believe it is true. While I continue to view Socialism and the Welfare State with disapproval, I have no reason to heap opprobrium on Obama quite yet, and may not, at least not very much during his administration. It depends on what he does. It is pointless to regurgitate Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright. Also, I see no reason to harp upon what Obama might do in Iran or Pakistan quite yet. He exhibits no sign of being a pacifist; so the “military option” doesn’t appear to be off his table, and who knows, maybe the squirrely Ahmadinejad may warm up to Obama’s diplomatic overtures. Maybe no one in the Bush administration spoke Ahmadinejad’s language. I don’t think so, but I’m willing to wait and see.

As to establishing relations with Cuba, I don’t live in Miami so I don’t care all that much. It’s going to be opened up sooner or later; so Obama may as well be the one who does it.

In regard to Pakistan, Obama is sounding firm; which is good. Pakistan needs to do something about its Islamists, more than it has done thus far. I can’t see India attacking Pakistan as long as it is officially trying to clean up its act.

So, no, I don’t feel I am politically or religiously Monastic, at least not yet. But if things were to get worse, I have a very nice collection of Gregorian Chants I could immerse myself in while reading Bolano.

1 comment:

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